It doesn't look like the ConocoPhillips megaloads will reach Billlings until April.

After a three-day rest, the two loads of oil refinery equipment traveled east early Monday from Townsend to the bottom of Deep Creek Canyon on U.S. Highway 12.

The ConocoPhillips information line (1-866-535-0138) reported the next two nights will be spent transporting the shipments, one at a time, through the canyon in the Big Belt Mountains. They'll move together the rest of the route to Billings, where a tentative schedule pointed toward a March 30 arrival date.

The Emmert International transports each bears half a coke drum that weighs between 300 and 350 tons. They're the first of four loads shipped to Lewiston, Idaho, last spring.

The loads passed through Missoula in the early hours of March 10 and through Helena on March 16 after crossing the Continental Divide at MacDonald Pass.

They sat two extra days alongside grain elevators at Townsend from Thursday until early Monday.

"There was a delay while parking areas in Deep Creek Canyon were being prepared," a Conoco spokesman told the Missoulian via e-mail.

"Recent rains and warmer temperatures had made the ground too soft for our shipments," Rich Johnson explained.

According to Emmert's tentative schedule through Montana, the loads were slated to travel to Deep Creek Canyon on Friday, and the first haul was to cross into the Smith River drainage on Saturday. The same schedule said they would arrive in Billings on March 30.

The transports through the canyon are among the shortest on the route - roughly 11 miles from a graveled pull off 10 1/2 miles east of Townsend to another graveled pull off on the other side of the canyon at milepost 21.4. The second load will make much the same trip, to milepost 21.3, the following night/morning.

According to a travel agreement with the Montana Department of Transportation, they can travel only between midnight and 6 a.m. and never on a Sunday.

Reporter Kim Briggeman can be reached at 523-5266 or at


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